Thursday, March 19, 2009


My last post referencing the synergy between Russian metal and upcoming RTS, Stalin vs. Martians, got me thinking about the role that music has played in my personal game history. I'm sure we all have that experience of particular albums becoming attached to certain periods in our lives. Whenever I think of my 2 year stint in Hawai'i, I can't help but hear Goodie Mob and Outkast playing in my head. While sound might not get encoded as deeply in our engrams as smell, it still has the capacity to evoke strong emotional memories.

In particular, I started thinking about how certain albums in my past got linked with particular video game experiences. There is no doubt that the right music can lift a mundane game experience into the stratosphere of the sublime - and there are few greater joys that having the visceral rush of a true "gaming moment" enhanced by the soundtrack of our lives. Here are a few of the pairings that I still recall with deepest joy and respect:

1991: Tetris and Psychocandy

Like hordes of other college freshmen, I got pretty addicted to Tetris. I mean, look at that awesome level back-drop! Back in '91, not everyone had a computer (weird, I know), so I used to steal time on my friend Pat's Mac whenever he was in class or napping. Pat's roommate, Moses, unknowingly exposed me to a brand new world of music. Moses had no particular interest in Tetris, as I recall, but he'd often blast obnoxious alt-rock and industrial while the rest of us gathered around Pat's computer, taking turns and competing for high scores. I'd never heard The Jesus and Mary Chain before, and at first, I hated the sound. But eventually, I discovered a profound ecstasy in matching oddly shaped blocks while listening to the droning vocals and guitar of the Reid brothers.

1998: Commando & The Stooges

I don't know exactly how this got started, but AF downloaded some emulators so that the house on Del Oro could play shit-tons of arcade classics. I know that IS got pretty obsessed with Time Pilot (hell, we all did) and BD showed amazing prowess with Donkey Kong. But nothing got us more pumped than playing Commando and listening to "1969." I mean, it felt like the two were designed for each other. Thinking about this gives me shivers.

1999: Half Life and Vegas

It's hard to talk about Half Life without getting all nostalgic. Let's just say: those were good days. It was Santa Barbara, living 2 blocks away from Leadbetter beach, and weekends were often spent moving back and forth between the ocean and AF's computer. Half Life was my first online gaming experience; it was all about Deathmatch, memorizing maps, right-clicking grenades, crowbar sneak attacks, gleeful laughter. Pop on a pair of headphones, crank up Crystal Method's Vegas, and run & kill. It sounds so juvenile, but I'd be grinning from ear to ear for hours at a time.

2000: Vigilante 8 and The Cult of Ray

This is a tough one, only because we played V8 so god damn much, listening to everything in our collection while doing so. Exile on Main Street, Los Angeles, New York Dolls, White Light/White Heat were on the hit parade. But there's a subtle synergy between shooting red missiles up Dave's ass and hearing "The Marsist" just get cranking. I won't lie to you: V8 was (is) a great game, on its own without support. But V8 + good tunes + friends = Heaven.

Well, you get the idea. Sad to say, I don't have these synergistic, orgasmic experiences much anymore. In part, I think, it's because I play a lot more PC games vs. consoles nowadays and the modern PC memory-sink makes it a bit difficult to play Itunes in the background. But that's not to say it doesn't happen still. Just recently, I started getting in deep with Dawn of War II, which is a pretty visceral experience on its own. Serendipitously, I discovered that DOWII supported by Queens of the Stone Age provides one hell of a rush. Zooming in close to watch your Dreadnaught wreak havoc on some Eldar while listening to "Better Living Through Chemistry" is pretty f'ing thrilling.

2009: Dawn of War II and Rated R

1 comment:

  1. my favorite song to play V8 to was beck's 'novacane'. not only does its rockosity make you crazy, the lyrics fit V8 the same way '1969' fits Commando. throw in a couple of b-loads and it was party time.
    one of these days you need to remind me why i left SB.
    Keep on truckin' like a novacane hurricane
    Blowing static on the paranoid short-wave
    Short fuse, got to dismantle
    Code red: what's your handle?

    Mission incredible undercover convoy
    Full-tilt chromosome cowboy
    X-ray search and destroy
    Smokestack blacktop novacane boy
    Grinding the gears eighteen wheels
    Pigs and robots riding on their heels
    Power through the roadblock
    Making a sandblast
    Diesel aluminum cruising like drain-o
    Down the horizon purple gasses
    Semi-trucks hauling their asses
    Novacane, hit the road expressway